Hardcore football fans are going to need an Amazon Prime account a year earlier than expected, if they want to keep watching the NFL's "Thursday Night Football."
The NFL announced Monday that its agreement to air Thursday games exclusively through Amazon Prime Video will begin a year earlier than previously announced, starting with the 2022 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed in the announcement.
The original 2023 agreement came as part of the NFL's gargantuan $110 billion television deal that also includes CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN/ABC.
Under the deal, Amazon will stream one game each week to its subscribers, recently announced to have surpassed 200 million. Amazon previously streamed TNF games starting in 2017, but only as a streaming option for games that were also being aired through Fox, CBS, NBC and NFL Network.
While the NFL claimed the streaming service will now be "the exclusive home" of TNF, it added the caveat that the games would still be carried on free over-the-air television in teams' broadcast markets.
'Thursday Night Football' finds a new home
The history of "Thursday Night Football" is considerably shorter than its "Monday Night Football" prime-time sibling, but much more chaotic when it comes to broadcasting rights.
Over the past decade, the league has expanded the number of Thursday night games while constantly seeking a long-term broadcast partner to air them like it has with ESPN and MNF. That hasn't really happened.
CBS was the first major network to dip its toe in the TNF waters with a deal in 2014 that allowed it to air half of the season's Thursday games, though those games were also aired on NFL Network. NBC entered the fray in 2016 to air games as well, which created an interesting dynamic of the games being shared across three channels. That was also when the NFL started experimenting with streaming its games, first through Twitter that season, then Amazon Prime and Twitch the following seasons.
Fox took over in 2018, airing games while also splitting them with NFL Network, but that deal will now end in 2022 as the NFL tries out Amazon as an exclusive partner. The NFL has long thrived with most of its games being available on broadcast networks and ESPN, but it will now see if a $9 per month paywall can make the game more profitable.
Will Amazon bring back all-female booth?
While Amazon was already streaming Thursday games, its upgrade to exclusive home of the games means it will no longer have a broadcast (e.g. Fox's Joe Buck and Troy Aikman production) to use as its main feed.
Fortunately, the company already has a natural option for its full-time booth. Since 2018, Amazon has offered an all-female booth of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer, the first of its kind, as an alternate feed. Amazon will have no shortage of possibilities for broadcasters to call its games, but it already knows what it has with its historic, well-reviewed booth.
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